I spent two days last week on a fieldwork training course organised by DARN, the Dreadful Acronyms Research Network. Peter and Katy kindly offered me somewhere to crash, and apart from giving me a joke bath towel that was just a little too small to cover both base and apex simultaneously and so forced me to perform a high speed streak out of the bathroom every morning, were wonderful hosts. Many thanks.
For me the most useful part of the course was the networking session, where we got to meet people working on similar projects. Up until that point I had been feeling smugly pleased with myself; after all, I was about to endure hardship (lack of hot showers, tea deprivation, probably missing the second half of the season of Battlestar Galactica) in order to Make A Difference. Then I got talking to a woman who'd done her fieldwork in the Gaza strip, collecting medical samples in streets patrolled by tanks and sending them out of country without knowing when she'd be allowed across the border herself to follow them, and a bloke who had been studying the health consequences for scavengers in Bangladesh who recycled medical waste, ("recycling medical waste" in this context means fishing around in buckets of bodily fluids and sharps to find a few bits of plastic tubing that could be sold for a pittance) a group of people looked down upon in the already marginalised scavenger community and hence so hard to find that he'd had to invent an entirely new sampling system to get to them. Suddenly what I'm doing seems pretty tame.